Senate Bill Aims to Bolster Addictions Treatment Workforce
A new bipartisan bill introduced in the Senate last week with the strong support and advocacy of the National Council would help to bolster the addictions treatment workforce by extending scholarships and student loan repayment opportunities to qualifying providers working in certain addiction settings. The Strengthening the Addiction Treatment Workforce Act (S.1453) would add addictions treatment facilities to the National Health Service Corps’ list of eligible sites for loan forgiveness, providing an incentive to providers who seek jobs at these facilities in underserved communities.
The National Health Service Corps (NHSC) provides scholarships and loan forgiveness programs to over 10,000 eligible health care professionals across the country in exchange for their service in rural, urban, and frontier communities, touching over 11 million American lives. Under current provisions, NHSC participants may serve in specified primary care, dental, and behavioral health clinics experiencing workforce shortages, but are ineligible for loan forgiveness if they serve in addiction treatment facilities. The bill, sponsored by Senators Joe Donnelly (D-IN) and Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), would add addiction treatment facilities as eligible sites in the NHSC loan forgiveness program.
If passed, this bill would offer an important recruitment tool for addiction treatment providers competing for limited staff in underserved areas. The Surgeon General’s 2016 report on addiction found that only 10.4% of Americans that met the diagnostic criteria for a substance use disorder received any kind of treatment for it in 2015. Allowing NHSC-eligible providers who work in addiction treatment facilities to qualify for loan forgiveness would help increase the number of dedicated and well-trained providers in high-need communities, expanding access to care for individuals struggling with opioid addiction and other substance use disorders.
The National Council commends Senator Donnelly and Senator Murkowski for their leadership on this issue. “The National Council is grateful to Senators Donnelly and Murkowski for their leadership in strengthening the addiction treatment workforce,” said President & CEO Linda Rosenberg. “With drug overdoses now surpassing traffic accidents as a leading cause of death, our nation must do more to ensure that clinics in the hardest-hit areas have the workforce they need to address this devastating issue. In the midst of a dire workforce shortage, this bill will help addiction treatment clinics recruit qualified staff and improve access to care.”